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"Knowing the Enemy"

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Eva HornEdit

Eva Horn is a Professor of Modern German Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Basel, specializing in literature, conspiracy and war in the 20th century.

Knowing the Enemy: The Epistemology of Secret Intelligence [2003]Edit

It is precisely because secret intelligence is based in an epistomology of enmity, that using it as a source of knowledge requires an endless dialectical deferral of questions regarding whether what you have been led to believe is merely what you are wanted to be believe, or whether it is, in fact "true" that secret intelligence, the arm of the war machine that also infects state sovereignty, requires the the academic justifications of the academy to help it develop an acceptable methodology for epistemic knowledge:

"The probability of being deceived and the necessity to deceive are the heart of the epistemology of secrecy that distorts the knowledge produced by intelligence into an abyss of endless hypothesizing. The furor of the war machine becomes a furor of thought. Before this background the twofold (academic and administrative) regulation of this knowledge is revealed to be the attempt to channel its delirium into controllable paths. The infinite curiosity and paranoia of intelligence must be given limits; otherwise, instead of becoming the basis for decisions, it would be lost in an equally infinite process of speculation" (68).

This in turn requires seperating knowledge gathering from its assessment and analysis. Thus there is a divide of lower-level information gatherers with military or tacticle training, and upper-level analyzers with university training (a contrast of paranoia in the field and dullness in the office ensues, which in turn leads to a slow paralysis of analysis).

Interception and Code Breaking (69)Edit

Messages, unlike agent-based intelligence, are considered to be a direct link to the enemies future goals and plans--this is data that is not distorted. Thus, hiding and encryption have developed as significant maneauvers. While we now have full proof means of encoding, the sheer amount of data means a tremendous delay between the acquisition of information and its translation, decoding analysis and interpretation (Horn's example as 9/11) (73).

Exploring Spaces (73)Edit

The spy who enters spaces is a necessary evil, a possible turnover or sympathizer for the enemy; "the spy is only the medium of the secret" although as a conduit he is likely to understand little of the secret he transmits (73).

"What is the structure of the spaces that intelligence researches-or, better, produces? If one turns to the (publicly accessible) strategy papers and research-theoretical discussions within the intelligence services, one notes that these offer little in the way of an archeology of spaces. The real spatial fantasies of the intelligence world are to be found in literary scenarios. Space is rendered intelligible and structured by its representation. Novels, a kind of "continuation of espionage through other means,"24 develop spaces as semiotic structures. The earliest clas- sic spy novels are readable as geopolitical tracts, essays on the neces- sity for protecting the homeland against invasion and infiltration. I would like to suggest three types of space that to me seem constitutive for any form of space exploration by intelligence in the twentieth century. I name these spaces, according to limits set on their exploration, the labyrinth, the Wall, and the pixel" (74)

  1. Labyrinth: is the process of knowing the terrain, intelligence based in physical knowledge. Horn relates this to maps, a "key medium of secret intelligence" (75): "The map is a representation of space that aims at its con- trol, but it cannot control the movements and relations between forces in this territory, even if it is their constitutive basis. As an instance of intelligence the map doesn't simply render the represented space know- able and transparent, but, in a paradoxical manner, also represents it precisely as a labyrinthine, obscure structure. For it excludes the dimension of time. Nothing ephemeral can be part of a slowly and care- fully drawn map. The forces and dynamics operating in this space can only be hypothetically anticipated; the map hides as much of the space as it discloses." (76)
  2. The Wall: "The space behind the Wall is a black box whose signals and symptoms are to be decoded according to the dialectical logic of deception and being deceived. What is behind the Wall is not visualizable or map- pable, but rather takes the form of a mysterious body to be sounded, sub- jected to tests, and observed from the outside. [...] The Wall is the epistemic center of the space that it divides, but it also ensures that the two sides created by this division are alike. The world becomes a global constellation of total enmity in which there are no longer any neutral places but where everything somehow looks the same" (77).
  3. The Pixel: "But above all it is an end, the end of the opaque and divided spaces that comprise the cartography of the labyrinth and the phantasmagoria of the Wall, as well as a political end to the small-mindedness of national secrecy, which creates zones in the middle of its own country [...] The camera, the nearly untouchable, invisible camera out in space, can fly over every- thing; no borders or demarcations can impede it [...] The space under the gaze of the IMINT is homogenous while at the same time not entirely continuous; rather, it is-as I like to call it-"pixeled." The limiting factor in the art of IMINT is resolution. Technically speaking, resolution refers to the representation of spatial units as image units; thus in a one-meter resolution, one meter is represented by one pixel [...] Just as resolution places a limit on the visualiza- tion of space, transmission is the limit for the timeliness of intelligence; its "military usefulness" fades quickly until highly relevant material becomes merely historical." (78-9).

"Technical intelligence cannot lend insight into what human beings know, think, and plan. TECHINT was a product of Cold War intelligence, which had lost itself in the pitfalls of secrecy, the treachery of moles and turncoats, and the delirium of mistrust and paranoia facing the enemy. Image intelli- gence and interception seemed, finally, to offer an objective form of information not clouded by lies, misunderstandings, and misinterpre- tations. Given the particular structure of danger in the Cold War, it cer- tainly did a good job. But already the growth of other forms of danger in the last twelve years, such as international criminal syndicates, low-intensity conflicts, weapons smuggling, and secret ABC weapons development (as in Iraq), has pointed out that satellites and wiretap pro- grams cannot solve every intelligence riddle. Technical intelligence cannot discover what motives and emotions make someone an enemy and to what extent he or she becomes dangerous. TECHINT is struc- turally unintelligent, producing streams of images and intercepts without criteria for what is important or unimportant. What human beings are planning, how human beings feel, and what actions they are considering can only be discovered by another human being. It was thus a predictable and certainly instructive reaction on the part of many intelligence experts to the terror attacks of 9/11 that they blamed the politics of increased reliance on technical defenses for the failure of the services to prevent the attacks. But "back to HUMINT" would mean not so much getting a handle on the paradoxes and difficulties of espi- onage in the classical sense as pushing them even further. Faced with an enemy that operates both nomadically and globally, an enemy that one quite obviously understands all too little to preempt in any effec- tive way, an enemy that is too foreign to effectively infiltrate, it cannot be a question of sending officers into the field or debating crisis sce- narios. What is currently happening in the United States-the compe- tition and bad blood between the CIA and the FBI, the demand for the unlimited access by intelligence personnel to the persons and property of private citizens, the increasing secrecy of data on chemical factories, nuclear power plants, defense installations, airports, and so on-is an utterly helpless reaction, even if it has grave repercussions for civil rights. A general culture of censorship, secrecy about "sensitive data," and enhanced surveillance is the baffled answer of a cumbersome, static system against a mobile, ungraspable enemy. It is the state appa- ratus in its most rigid, unmovable and thus brutal form arraying itself against the war machine incarnate. For perhaps Al Qaeda is the most advanced form of a war machine, covert, mobile, centerless, and inter- twined with the network of the global world economy, a system of nomads attacking the monuments and centers of global capitalism. A machine such as this, a rhizomatic structure, can perhaps only be met by the decisive dissolution of the normal order of battle, with Sun Tzu's small troop of multitalented spies. Such spies would no longer be educated civil servants, nor more or less controllable field agents, but rather elements of the grey zone of hazy networks from which interna- tional terror also arises: weapons dealers, international businesspeople, shady news traders, inscrutable journalists, mercenaries, people with a long affinity for fundamental Islamist networks. Liars and criminals, fanatics and paranoiacs, embittered and confused souls. To do business with such people, to gather reliable information from them, is a nightmare [...] Quite possibly, the furor of the war machine can only be matched by an equal furor of tactical thinking and intelligence" (78-81).

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